Roots Teen Center opens in North Adams

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NORTH ADAMS >> Exuding hope and excitement, organizers and young people on Saturday afternoon celebrated the opening of the Roots Teen Center at 43 Eagle Street.

The aim of the center, according to Jessica Sweeney, the newly hired executive director of the center, is to provide a social setting and learning atmosphere for young people ages 14 to 22 years old. It is, she explained, more than just a "drop-in center," although she expects it will also serve as a safe place for young people to congregate.

"Initially, it will be a drop-in center," she said. "We'll have drop-in hours on a regular basis. But eventually, it's going to be much more than that."

Sweeney explained that the center's programs will be driven by the wishes and needs of the young people who become part of it. This is a model used successfully in Great Barrington by the Railroad Street Youth Project, an organization for which Sweeney admitted she has great admiration.

"I love what Railroad Street does," she said. "They're one of the organizations we looked at when we started this."

The center has been given a solid head start, as the organization landed $100,000 from the United Methodist Church of Great Barrington, which will cover a portion of the expenses for the center for the next three years, according to Courtney Randall, co-pastor of the New Hope United Methodist Church of North Adams. Randall also serves as the president of the teen center's board of directors.

In a recent interview with the Eagle, Randall explained that New Hope "is sponsoring the center in partnership with other organizations in the city."

The key to the facility's sustainability, he said, will be those partnerships, as financially, the center would be difficult for one organization to oversee.

Sweeney said the $100,000 is basically "seed money. We are still looking for other funding sources. We'll be planning fundraisers and seeking private donations."

There is presently a 14-person board of directors. In addition, said Sweeney, there is also a Youth Board, which presently has a five-person roster. The center, she said, is continuing to seek out local young people to fill out that board.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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